As high school winds to a close an three friends reach a turning points in their lives, they embark on a local scavenger hunt that takes them much further than they expected.
This is the real story of PAPER TOWNS, whether the marketers or filmmakers realized it or not.
Whether or not you get hooked on the primary plot depends whether you believe that the protagonist actually has a reason to be infatuated with his mysterious neighbor, Margot. The efforts spent building the childhood friendship doesn’t build a solid enough foundation for the final two-thirds of the film. Thankfully, the final two-thirds of the film are interesting enough that it stands on its own as an enjoyable journey.
The scavenger hunt on which our growing band of protagonists embarks is the meat of the film. Hitting on the successes and failures of the hunt and its associated clues would give away too much of the ending to the film, so I can only touch on it tangentially. What I can say is that when someone tunes in for a second viewing of the film, it puts things in a different light – not necessarily a more interesting one. The interaction with his friends – new and old – are the most interesting deeper aspects of the film, and they only scratch the surface of it.
In fact, they only really scratch the surface on a number of characters who could have been far more interesting than what is presented. The potential is there for a story as deep and enriched as THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, which is head-and-shoulders far better than PAPER TOWNS. But perhaps that’s the irony of PAPER TOWNS, that the film felt paper thin. Adding more depth, for which the 110-minute run-time left plenty of room, should have been possible, and would have significantly increased DVD sales. I can’t imagine many people long for repeat viewings, a shame because these characters, their various relationships, and the scavenger hunt should have lent itself nicely to wanting to study the various aspects.
Give us more of the emotional connections formed between Q and Margot growing up, giving the larger plot a better foundation. We deserve more than just the fact that they happened to find a dead body one day when they were kids, and how she grew more intriguing as the two grew apart. Understanding why he would want to reconnect makes sense, but her? Not so much.
Give us more about the nickname Radar got, or his parents with their record-seeking collection. It looks like the filmmakers didn’t even cast actors for those roles. At least give us cause to understand why Radar might not want his girlfriend to meet his potentially-embarrassing friends.
Give us more about the beautiful girl who wants to be seen more for her Dartmouth-worthy intellect by some juxtaposition with her circle of friends. Give us more about how and why she was Margot’s best friend and how she’s more than just intellectually curious about Margot’s whereabouts.
Give us more about how the three friends met, to help drive the primary, on-going storyline something to latch onto, an emotional hook for the viewers while we wait for the potential reconnecting of Q and Margot, because in the end, the story of the friends that actually matters to the film. That’s the lasting story that viewers will come away with. That’s what helped make ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL one of the best films of the year.
My rating: 65 out of 100